Alpha Kappa Alpha rallies against police brutality


Ryan Fang

Participants of the Black Lives Matter rally regarding the shooting the Charlotte gather on the Main Quad to show support for shooting victims on Sept. 25.

By Angelica LaVito, Staff writer

When Sydney Mann went to church with her family at DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lisle, Illinois one Sunday in July of 2015, she sat next to Sandra Bland.

The next day, Bland left for Texas.

Mann, a sophomore in business, had known Bland her whole life. Bland died in police custody after being arrested for failing to signal a lane change in Texas. Authorities said Bland took her own life. Her family disagrees.

Mann wrote “July 13th, 2015 Sandra Bland #SayHerName” in chalk on the Main Quad on Sunday at a rally against police brutality to honor her family friend and others who have died. She compared her feelings to a genocide on her people. Mann wants people to imagine one of these tragedies happening in their own lives.

“Imagine if someone you considered a member of your family was taken away from you just because of what they looked like,” Mann said. “Just try to picture losing your sister, or your brother, or your best friend, or your aunt, or your uncle and how that would feel, you know? And that anxiety you face every day because of that.”

Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority hosted the rally in response to recent police shootings in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina last week. They held a moment of silence for victims of police brutality, as well as George Korchev, who was shot and killed early Sunday morning in Champaign.

Members passed out names of about 500 people who have been killed by police. About 100 attendees read the name they received out loud in unison.

Lauryn Payne, Alpha Kappa Alpha’s vice president, hoped to get the entire campus involved with the rally. She wants more awareness from the community.

“This has to be stopped. This cannot be our reality anymore,” Payne, a senior in LAS, said. “We’re over discrimination. We’re over separation.”

Lola Ogunfemi, Alpha Kappa Alpha’s historian and connections chair, asked attendees to create signs to hang around the Main Quad and write on the sidewalks with chalk. She encouraged them to cover as much ground as possible.

One person wrote, “Silence implies consent” on a sign and taped it to a tree. A child held a sign that read, “Love your neighbors.”

Some, like Mann, wrote in chalk the names of people police officers killed. Others wrote phrases such as “The violence is not new, the cameras are new, ” “Black lives matter at U of I,” “I’m more than just a skin tone” and “Colored skin is not a weapon.”

For Janell Ross, junior in AHS, writing her feelings in chalk on the Main Quad felt therapeutic. One of the biggest issues today, she thinks, is the lack of communication, so she appreciated the chance to share her feelings.

“My skin doesn’t solely define me. I am … black, female. 20 (years old). A student. Daughter. Niece. Future physical therapist. Colleague. Cousin,” Ross wrote.

“Instead of having to verbalize it to another person, putting it on the ground and also knowing someone might step on it, at least you vent out your frustration,” Ross said. “That’s the most you can do. You got it out in the air and either someone takes it in a good way or a bad way, you did your part.”

Many students attended to publicly show support for the movement against police brutality. Austin Harris, sophomore in ACES, is sick of the “repetitive media coverage” of such incidents.

Harris does not feel as if his life is necessarily in danger, but his mom taught him how to handle police stops when he first started driving. He said she taught him to keep his hands on the wheel, make no sudden movements and be polite and respectful.

“That’s the reality,” Harris said. “We have to live with that.”

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